The countryside is hundreds of feet deep in snow, and a small community is managing to exist in the bell-tower of a church, just above the snow level. For sustenance they make journeys to the shops of the village far below by tunnels. They also stay alive by hunting the ferocious and telepathic bear-like animals known as Pals.
The individuals in the small group are brilliantly portrayed, in turn defeatist, boastful, querulous, selfish and generous. They are obsessive, they argue; but when danger threatens, as it often does, they immediately band together in their common fight for survival.